Thursday, December 17, 2009

"I'm Done!"

I enjoy a good quote, a succinct reminder to keep my mind in the right place. One I find relevant for my work as a teacher is "No great thing is created suddenly. "

I read a book last year that impacted my thinking a great deal. The book was An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger. Berger writes of three "toolboxes" for bringing out the best in students: a school culture of excellence, work of excellence and teaching of excellence.
One story he told that really stuck in my mind was the story of when he took some of his students to speak about their work to some teachers at another school. It was a school for the deaf, and Berger's students addressed the teachers using sign language; they had learned it as part of a unit of study on deaf culture (this, in itself, impressed me). One of the teachers asked the students about doing so many drafts and putting in so much effort on each project. "Don't you complain about having to work so hard and do so many drafts to complete your work?"
The students, having always been at a school where excellence is the norm, where work is important and meaningful, did not really understand the question. Why complain about the way things are?
It would be like asking students at another type of school, "Why don't you complain about doing so many worksheets? Don't you want to have an authentic audience, to do meaningful, high quality work?" These students probably would be as baffled by this type of question as those girls were baffled by the question of why they put in so much work and effort on their projects.

I've grappled, as a teacher, with what I call the "'I'm done' culture." Ignoring the grammatical problems with the phrase "I'm done," I find that my students generally view projects and assignments as something to finish. Why? What is the reward for being "done?"
Is it a question of authentic audience? Non-engagement in a task? A school culture that more or less trains students to view school as a place to finish one thing (no matter how crummy the job) and move on to the next? Where is the internal motivation to care, to work through drafts and make changes? I believe that this is one of the most important roles I can embrace as a teacher- to try to bring students to a place where the work they do matters to them, where they strive for quality over quantity.

I highly recommend reading Berger's book as a helpful guide. It can be boiled down to four key points:

•Give students work that matters
•Share examples of excellence
•Public presentation
•Critique

I feel that I do a halfway decent job of 3 out of 4 of these. Although I have tried, I have not gotten the hang of having student critiques of any real value. I do believe strongly in public presentation of work, be that a presentation to classmates, parents, other classes in the school, contests, partnership or a worldwide audience through web 2.0. I have seen this impact students' desire to do a better job on the next project more than any grade or feedback from the teacher.

My questions are-
*Can this type of student work ethic be achieved in a single classroom when the general school culture is of a different ethic?
*How can a school move, as a whole, toward an ethic or culture of high standards, meaningful work and true integration as opposed to more isolated, non-authentic assignments?

Pushing students only works so much. There has to be some internal desire to put in the work necessary to create something of which a student can be genuinely proud.

I have an anecdote to share, a tale of a struggle I am currently having over this very topic. I am going to save it for my next blog post.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

LAN Party

Please read the flyer below and, if you're local to Jacksonville, Florida, come out to join us for a high-quality, FREE, professional development event. Anyone can watch the K-12 presentations online, but it is just more fun to watch and discuss with colleagues. It's all about the network (in this case, the Local Area Network.)


Friday, December 11, 2009

Creative Winter Fun

                                               ethansnowman

We had fun creating snow people, snowflakes and Hanukkah houses. Here are the links to the sites we used. Have fun.





Make a Snowflake
(and send it into the snowstorm with a positive message).

Friday, November 20, 2009

KinderKids Draw

We are happy to be participating again in the KinderKidsDraw project. Participating schools this year are from Thailand, Spain, Hong Kong, Luxembourg, California, South Carolina, and there is even another school from Jacksonville!

Our K classes just finished their first Voicethread where they introduced themselves to their KinderKids partners. We used Pixie to draw self portraits and Voicethread to record our introductions.

Mrs. Yegelwel's class flew to Madrid, Spain using our imagination wings and google earth. Mrs. McAraw's class flew to Winnetka, California. Once there we "met" our KinderKids friends by listening to their Voicethreads and leaving comments.

Here is our Voicethread-

Friday, November 13, 2009

"One-Click Mitzvah"- A Simple Thing

One Click Mitzvah
We've coined a new term- "one-click mitzvah." This refers to an easy way to use technology to give to others. There are many sites now set up to donate money based on a number of visits (or clicks) to the site.
All of our computers in the computer lab are set to "The Hunger Site" as the homepage. Students all know to "click to give" whenever they open the browser. Many of the students will take the extra time to click across the top navigation bar to go to all of the listed sites.
Sometimes I open the browser when showing something to students and forget to click to give. You can be sure the students ALWAYS remind me.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Seeds, Serendipity, Sustainability

Change.
It's the one constant in life, yes? And yet human nature seems to be such that many of us will cling to the old ways like a life raft in stormy waters. Why? I don't know. What I do know is that, my own issues with change aside, I have worked hard for change in schools. My twitter profile, until recently, read "wannabe change-agent." I changed that the other day, as I realize that I am no longer a wannabe. I am an agent of change.
Looking back, I realize that my school has changed. This is year 4 for me, and I am amazed at what is taking place. Are we firmly, solidly planted in 21st century, learner-centered, relevant education? No, not yet. Have we glimpsed the future and it is now? Yes.

I thought I would share my story in hopes of encouraging other wannabes out there. Keep
plugging away. Change does happen.

Seeds-
First, you plant the seeds. Do what you do. Talk to everyone about your ideas. Keep it upbeat. Don't expect people to get it. They won't. Keep learning. We are so lucky to have our online colleagues who do get it. Talk to them. Network, network, network. You need your network! You are planting seeds, and it will take time before you see growth. Keep planting and nurture whatever growth you see.

Serendipity-
This is when things begin happening of their own volition. You can't control the winds of change, and you can't do it all on your own. As one person you can only do so much. Hopefully, at some point, change itself takes over and helps you find the support you need. The way this happened for me seems amazing, but maybe it's really not. Maybe it's what happens when you plant the seeds and let nature run its course.
My personal story of serendipity started with a chance (and extremely short) meeting two years ago at FETC. Because of that meeting, the PLN, and a person with vision and leadership, a new position was created at my school this year for a 21st Century Learning Specialist. The position was created specifically for Silvia Tolisano, not as an abstract concept, as in "let's hire a 21st century learning specialist."
This, in itself, seems unusual to me, but correct. People make all the difference. The position was much less important than the fact that we recognized Silvia's skills, experience, passion and visionary leadership as something good, something worth having, something worth trusting.

Sustainability-
This is the chapter still to be written. Silvia's blog tagline "Langwitches -The Magic of Learning" says it all. She has worked magic, and she has done it by embedding PD into classroom teaching. Our students are engaged in global communications and other relevant, exciting learning, our school has a new website, teachers are blogging, we've implemented google apps for education. We have tasted the future, and there is no turning back.
My concern is that, while Silvia is truly an incredible teacher and we are extraordinarily lucky to have this time with her, I worry that we are putting all our eggs in her basket. Silvia is an agent of change, a support, someone to lead the way -- but the teachers MUST begin to develop their own PLNs, we must learn to be better at collaborating, sharing, supporting and teaching each other. That is the only way for these changes to be sustainable.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Acrostic Name Poems

First we used this fun tool to write rough drafts of our name poems.
Here are our final drafts.

Find more videos like this on Tech4Learning

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Beautiful, Colorful Computer Lab

Thanks to the 3rd and 4th grade students the walls of the computer lab are no longer boring blue. The student-created poster art is colorful, fun, unique and inspiring. Students learned some basics of graphic communication, how to convey a message using text, image, color and design elements. Below are a few samples of the artwork.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Surfing the Wave


I wrote the following for an online PD class I am taking. The prompt was "unintentional learning." I thought it might be worth sharing here.

I am in a constant process of learning and changing. Most of my learning can be attributed to my online personal learning network. As I learn something new I bring it back to the classroom to my students. Many times this results in me having to tell them something that contradicts something I told them a week ago.

I feel that I am modeling for them the important processes I go through as a learner, and I believe that is more important than doing things a certain way. I remind students and myself that "learning is messy." I even hung a "Learning is Messy" sign on the wall, right across from my desk. When things sometimes start to feel out of control, it helps to remind myself that learning is not always neat, orderly and quiet.

As I find value in new processes, such as blogging, I feel compelled to share these with my students. I am sharing things almost as quickly as I am learning them myself. Activities like blogging are not fixed. There is hardly a right or wrong answer and it is difficult to anticipate students' needs, interests or possible problems that may arise.


I've come up with the analogy of surfing to describe some of my work with students this year. This is where I came up with the surfing analogy. I began a class blog with my 4th graders this year as part of a global blog pals communication project that was started by Kim Cofino, a teacher at the International School of Bangkok, Thailand. So many different things happened once we started blogging. There were times when the fourth graders would leave the lab after an active session of blogging activity and me running like crazy around the room, and as soon as they were gone I would sit down at my computer to try to learn more so that I could continue to help them do what they wanted to do.

It was exciting and motivating, but at times it felt out of control. I realized that student-directed learning can feel out of control, much like surfing. Sometimes you have the wave and you're up on top. Other times the wave is going too fast and you're just hoping to make it without crashing. And sometimes, you go down, under the water, and have to swim to the surface to catch your breath and start again. But you always go again, because it's exciting and worthwhile.


Image credit: Michael Dawes flickr photostream

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why I Was at NECC09


After reading this post and this post about vendors at NECC, I thought I would offer my perspective to the mix.
I was a first-timer at NECC this year. When you add up plane flight, hotel room, conference fees, food and other costs, especially in an expensive city like DC, an experience like NECC is a pricey proposition for a private school teacher like me. In other words, I might have spent another NECC reading tweets and blog posts instead of writing them, if not for a lucky break.

You're thinking I won the lottery, right?
I wish.
I was at NECC this year because of my relationship with a vendor.

This vendor-teacher relationship has been building for a few years now. It was something that happened naturally, yet, in my experience, was anything but common. I understand now that this is just how Tech4Learning operates. Yes, they are a commercial organization. They exist to make money, and I sincerely hope they make boatloads of it.

I don't think any of us begrudge anyone else for making a living. I think the tension, if any exists, between vendors and teachers is that teachers, by the nature of what we do, are usually not business-minded. We are often not in the position to decide where money is spent, and many of us regularly spend our own money on supplies for work. There are stereotypes and bad experiences to contend with- the sleazy salesperson, the hideous customer non-service with companies who sell a product, then run and hide. It can get in the way of our pure-minded notions of education. But, let's face it-everything costs. Educating kids well costs money. Putting on a conference like NECC costs money. And I've never yet attended a conference where anyone was forced to enter the exhibit hall.

I thought this comment, by Dean Shareski, on Lee Kolbert's blog, said it quite well-

An important post. You clearly distinguish between vendors who truly want to make a difference and provide meaningful products and those just interested in a sale.
Kinda reminds of the divide we currently see in education between those really wanting to make a difference, recognizing there has to be a different/better way and those who just want to collect a check.

I completely agree.
It has been a transformative experience for me being involved with a company like Tech4Learning. First of all, they make great software. They seek student and teacher feedback as they develop their products, and it shows. If that's not enough, check out their website to see the free resources they provide including a lesson library, a ning for teachers to share projects and the high-quality, non-software-specific Creative Educator magazine.



I considered it an honor to be able to represent Tech4Learning at NECC and to have the opportunity to share some of my students' work in their booth. I found myself hanging around to watch the presentations of fellow teachers. I certainly didn't have to spend my time in the Tech4Learning booth with so much to see and do and experience at NECC. I was drawn there, quite simply, by the quality of the presentations. After each presentation attendees were given a full-version CD of Tech4Learning software. No hard sell.

I'm about to wrap up, but I'd like to share a story. This, to me, says all there is to say in answer to the question of whether companies can care about anything other than profits.
I teach at a Jewish school with a dual-language curriculum in English and Hebrew. We have trouble finding software for the macs that supports Hebrew. When I first purchased Pixie, we used it to make Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) cards for some students in Israel. Through her own network (which at the time did not include me) Melinda Kolk, Director of Professional Development at Tech4Learning got a look at those cards. Can you imagine my surprise and gratitude when I received an email from her asking if it would be helpful if they added the Hebrew alphabet to the Pixie sticker library?
Small private schools do not wield the big-dollar contracts of large public districts. I'm sure it would be easier and more profitable to ignore us. Unless, of course, you really care.

Learning at Lunch

Learning.

Who decides when it happens, where it happens, how it happens?

I guess this question has been around for as long as we have. All kinds of assessments and other ways of quantifying and qualifying learning have resulted. We, all of us, educators and non-educators alike, discuss and disagree. What matters?

We must have proof! Proof of learning, to me, is change. When we have learned something, there is some type of change--a change in behavior, a change in vocabulary, ability to articulate, other new abilities, a change in the way we do what we do, even a change in the questions we ask.

So, I thought I would share another story in hopes of clarifying my own views. I, for one, learn through writing and through words.


This is the tale of The Scrumptious Lunch-


Time flies.

Four years have passed since I traded in my California teaching credential for Florida certification. My Florida teaching certificate expires next June. I must provide proof of my professional development activities (and, of course, pay a fee) in order to reinstate the piece of paper. I am nothing if not a seeker of PD, but I made some mistakes along the way in terms of getting the required documentation.


Last summer, I authored an online course for teachers called Tackling Tough Text for Professional Learning Board. It was my first time using moodle and my first time, outside of a school project, creating an online course. I also facilitated the course twice. I figured that was worth a few credits in terms of my ongoing professional development. Teachers can get PD credit for teaching a college course. However, when I requested credit for this experience, I was flatly denied with the following explanation,


"Teachers don't learn from teaching."


Seriously????


I was floored by this offhand dismissal that any teacher knows is utter nonsense. I tried to argue my point via email, but was again flatly denied. It's in the realm of things in life that make no sense- bureaucracy rules, jumping through hoops. I know better than to spend too much time or energy getting upset.


Part 2: In order to get credit for the time spent learning at NECC, I submitted my request beforehand. Along with my written request I had to attach a description of sessions I would attend. I knew that I would be attending an all-day TIE event on Saturday and The Constructivist Celebration on Sunday, so I submitted write-ups describing those activities. The write-ups for each day included a one-hour "scrumptious lunch."

Now we get down to the nitty-gritty. Should I be able to get credit for the lunch hour?


Time spent networking with my colleagues and discussing teaching is, in my humble opinion, valid learning time. The fact that I can enjoy a scrumptious lunch at the same time does not inhibit my learning in the slightest.


I will be submitting my request for PD hours to include lunch.



Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Google Earth Model Lesson Presentation

Ok, after saying I can't live blog, I'm now going to try it. :)
Session is called "Caravans and Google Earth" Presenters: Ellen Dierkes, Dana Livne and Renee Hawkins.
It's a model lesson (5th grade). Here's the presenter's website.
One-to-one laptop school, moodle school

"Caravans" came first, teachers were using, role-playing simulation game.
Tech teacher suggested integrating with google earth.
In game Caravans, students travel the world and do tasks .
All start in San Diego, assessed based on "travel dots." Students get travel dots based on things like map skills, learning languages, creating artifacts, etc. Travel dots earn gold pieces. Goal of game is to get gold pieces to collect artifacts for a museum. Here is description I lifted from the site where the game is sold-
She says it sounds complicated, but it actually works very easily once kids get started they are self-motivated, able to work independently.
Each caravan has to research and plan their journey. Can focus the game on particular areas of the world or can do the whole world.
Students work in caravans in their classroom, then when they come into the lab (once a week, 40 minutes) they learn html coding and work in google earth.

Each caravan group is responsible for creating place marks in google earth with text description and photo or video clip. Students use html, also create a template with important factual information about country. Each caravan responsible for a region and creating 4 place marks for that region. Then other students take tour of that region by exploring place marks.

Start with an already-created place, show kids how to right click, go to properties and copy html code that is already there to use as a starting point for writing the new code.

Not another post about NECC09

NECC Day 3- I'm sitting in the blogger's cafe, laptop open. There are about 30 other people here, some just talking, many typing away. I've skimmed some of the blogs in my reader and checked out a few links from twitter.
NECC, NECC, NECC.
Everyone's manically sharing and reflecting. (For some excellent NECC posts check out this blog.)
It's not that I feel I have something so unique to add to the NECC soup of blog posts. Yet, I must blog!
I've been working hard to take in as much as I can. Of course, there's way too much. Hence the beauty of all the blogging. I can share others' NECC experiences, too, if I'm willing to read.
Writing and reflecting is one way I can begin to process and truly learn from this tidal wave of people, projects, ideas and words.
I'm amazed by the people (and there are many) who seem to be able to process and share in real time. I am not one of those people. I've been taking notes in some sessions, just listening in others, have taken a few photos, but I can't begin to understand what I have really learned until I have more time. Writing is, for me, an important part of the process.

I'm that kid in your class who needs a little time to think.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NECC Reflections Thus Far

Going to keep it short and simple. At a conference this large (HUGE, ENORMOUS, OVERWHELMING!) I want to get the most out of each minute. This is my first time at NECC. Also, I tend to be a person who needs some time and space for reflection in order to learn. Yesterday, the first "official" conference day I made the following personal discoveries:

•I am beginning to tire of the famous "conversation." Early in day I found myself sitting at a "session" (not sure if that is the correct word) of NECC Unplugged. The discussion was 21st Century Literacy, a concept in which I have high interest. One of the speakers talked a lot about "the conversation" and how it's not going anywhere, no one is making any changes. I left feeling somewhat discouraged by the generalizations made about teachers. "We" are doing this. "We" are not doing this.
I dislike the generalizing of teaching/education. I always have. "We" are all different and unique. You don't know me and don't know what I'm doing or not doing.

•I obviously have "issues." :) Just want to make sure I clarify that I have the utmost respect for all of the people who are speaking and presenting. I believe wholeheartedly that they speak with nothing but positive intent. It is just that I am finding maybe, at this point, listening to more of this type of talk is not the most productive use of my time.

•I have spent a great deal of time in the Tech4Learning booth listening to the incredible educators they have showing samples and strategies. I could certainly be called biased, as I am extremely humbled and honored to be one of those educators this year. You'll have to trust me, though. It's not bias. These are the kinds of presentations that leave me wanting to run back to the classroom (ok, well, run back as soon as summer break ends) and start playing/learning in fun ways with students.
Again, this is just where I am, personally, right now. I don't want to hear any more people who don't work directly with students telling me what I should do, how I should teach. I get it! I am enjoying hearing real teachers show and tell what they are doing to make learning student centered, engaging, higher-order thinking, meaningful, etc.

If you are a K-5 (or K-8) educator looking to see examples and strategies from people who are doing great things in schools, I recommend the Tech4Learning booth. Here is the schedule.
I saw Liz Allen's presentation "Research without Copying" yesterday and recommend it highly. She will be sharing it again today at 2:30 pm. I am also looking forward to hearing Dr. Henry Olds "Kids, Cameras, Computers, Creativity and Cognition" today at 4 pm.

Just to let you know, I don't work for Tech4Learning !!! Just sharing some of my thoughts. Putting the laptop away now so I can pay attention to Gary Stager!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Partner Rubrics for Elementary School

I wanted to take a moment to share a rubric I created for my 5th graders to use after working on a project with a partner. Thanks to my network, especially Carey Pohanka, for responding to my request for examples of  rubrics used to evaluate collaborative skills. It was very helpful. 

"Remember, you will get to share your feelings about working with your partner at the end of the project. And remember that your partner will also be evaluating YOU as a partner." 
With that simple statement, I was able to head off several issues before they became "full blown." Not only does filling out the rubric give students a chance to be heard, it also reinforces the skills that are expected.

Partner Skills Rubric Partner Skills Rubric edtechworkshop6991

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Best Plan

the Preface
I sometimes feel compelled to stay "on topic." EdTechWorkshop-- it's about education and/or technology, right? But it is my unique path that has made me the person who cares about educational technology enough to blog about it. I feel that some of my stories are worth sharing even if they're not about what I'm teaching tomorrow or the latest cool new thing I've found online. So I hope you will bear with me if I sometimes go off course. I offer my thoughts and experiences as that which I have to share, and I hope that someone learns from or even simply enjoys reading them.

The Planner
I often hear people proclaim with pride, "I'm a planner."
What I sense they are saying is "Subconsciously I know that life is unpredictable and some things are out of my control. By being a planner, I stay in control!"
Ah well. Good for you.

I, Andrea, am not "a planner." This seems to really bother people. I had almost become convinced that it was a regrettable personality flaw. But, you know what they say about plans.
When I rode my bike through the US, Mexico and Guatemala, my traveling partner, Daniel, and I had a saying, "The best plan is no plan, and that's our plan." It worked well for us-- time and time again something amazing would cross our path at just the right moment.

Here is one story of a time I didn't have a plan but everything worked out better than fine. Around 15 years ago I had my first teaching job. This job was actually two part-time jobs at the same school. One of the two jobs was that of environmental/outdoor ed. coordinator at an inner-city public school in San Francisco. I took all of the kids in the school on overnight camping trips.

If you know me at all, you know that I was passionate about the work I was doing and threw myself into it wholeheartedly. So when I heard about a large experiential education conference in Texas I thought, "that sounds interesting. I'd like to go to that."

When I asked my principal if I could go, she gave me a strange look. She told me that the school would not pay my way, but that I could go and still get paid for working. So I signed up as a volunteer for the conference which gave me free admission. I found a super-cheap plane ticket to Austin. And I packed my bags. I had never been to Austin, never been to a professional conference, didn't know another soul who would be there and did not know where I would stay once I arrived. Obviously this was before the days of having access to people, places and information online. As I headed to the airport, I began to question myself. What in the world was I doing?

I arrived at the conference hotel in time for the volunteer orientation. As I sat in the circle with the other volunteers I wondered where I would sleep that night. I noticed a woman looking at me and smiling. At the break, she walked over and asked if I knew Ken W. Know him? He was a close friend!! She, too, was friends with him and reminded me that we had gone hiking together when she was living in SF, and he had come to visit. Now she lived in LA and worked for an environmental ed organization there. They had sent her to the conference.
When I confided to her that I had made no plans for a hotel room, she generously invited me to share hers. She was supposed to have come with a work colleague who couldn't make it last minute, and she had a nice double room.
We had a great time together at the conference, and it sparked a friendship that lasted for many years.

It reminds me of a vivid dream I once had. I was planning a trip with a co-worker (a planner). He was busy collecting maps and plotting the route. He became frustrated with me because I didn't have a map. I told him I didn't need a map, I would follow the signs.

And that is pretty much what I have always done. While I have never stayed in one job or one house or even one place for too long, I have always felt that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I have always been pretty happy where I am at the moment. So who's to say that planners are superior to non-planners? I think the best plan is to try to accept ourselves and others. Most of us are doing the best we can. It's not as if life is a race to the end.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

All Cakes Deserve the Best Ingredients

I've been trying to come up with an analogy to express why I dislike pull-out as a means of addressing special needs, specifically pull-out enrichment for gifted and talented students. I dislike labels to begin with, and I believe good teaching is good teaching and all students benefit from a strong, well-integrated student-centered approach to learning and a school culture that values and encourages excellence. Please note: I understand that there are some
special needs that are extreme and that may require pull-out programs and other resources. My point is that excellent classrooms can meet the true needs of many different learners. Not enough of these classrooms exist.

Let's think of each child as a cake that we are baking. In reality, there is no comparison to the growth and development of a human being to a cake. I know that. Let's move on.

There are many different kinds of cakes. That is the way it is supposed to be, right? All cakes are good. A chocolate cake is not supposed to be a banana cake, nor any other kind of cake. Each cake strives to be the most delicious cake it can be.

Many ingredients go into creating the cake. Since this is about education, let's talk about the important ingredient of education. Have you ever tasted a cake made from a boxed mix? I liken this to a "boxed" curriculum--worksheets and textbooks. These days there are some pretty fancy cake mixes out there, made with better than average ingredients and producing a darn good cake. These mixes, like a private education, cost a pretty penny. But no boxed cake mix can compare to a homemade cake, baked with quality ingredients. Think project-based, differentiated classroom. The best ingredients are good for all cakes. Fresh, organic eggs and high-quality butter are not going to turn a chocolate cake into a carrot cake, but they will enhance both cakes and help them be the best they can be.

Some bakers believe that their cake should be "pulled out" of the regular oven and baked in a convection oven. The convection oven is accelerated, and true, the cake may bake faster. However, their ultimate destiny is no different than that of the slower-baking cake. Each becomes the cake they were meant to become.

Some bakers insist on worrying over their cakes. They think if they constantly open the oven to check on the cake's progress, they will improve its outcome. Not so. They actually interfere with the all important process of cake development. All a baker can do is make sure that his cake is given the best possible ingredients and then love and appreciate it.

image: Graduation Cake Guy from CarbonNYC's flickrstream end note: had I searched flickr for cakes first, I might never have written this. Wow. I mean WOW. There are some crazy-talented cake artists out there. If you want to see some amazing looking cakes go search flickr!

Best-Ever Banana Bread

We may be talking soon about baking cakes here on ETW. (oh no, what does it mean when you give your blog a nickname?)
I promised this recipe to a twitter friend who asked me to post it to a blog. Since this is my "main" blog, I thought I might as well share it here. Not ed nor tech, it may still be the best thing I've ever shared here. That is cause this banana bread is GOOD. And easy. And really, really good. Everyone loves it. I just made some the other night. And I did try to take a picture to post, but the picture just didn't do it justice. So no picture.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1/2 cup canola or veg oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 or 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients except chocolate chips until you have a nice, smooth batter. Add chips. Pour into 2 greased bread pans and bake at 350 deg. for about 45 minutes. The chocolate chips will sink to the bottom.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Skyping with 2nd Grade

Around the World with 80 Schools-- if you haven't already heard of it, this is a very simple (in theory) way for schools around the world to use skype to connect with other students. I say "in theory" because we had our first skype session today, and it was a bit messier than I had hoped. But, as I always remind myself, learning IS messy!
As part of the sharing/learning/connecting, participants are asked to blog about the experience afterwards. I'm going to keep my post short and sweet as I am tired tonight. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures during the call.

I threw out my request for a skype call on twitter, as I thought it might be the easiest way to find someone. Silvia Tolisano, the project's organizer later messaged me that she found it simpler to connect via email, so I will keep that in mind for next time. Luckily, I had a quick response from Paula White, a teacher at Crozet School in Crozet, VA. We made arrangements to have our 2nd grade classes meet this morning around 11 am. ET. It was easy to start with a school in the same time zone.

The hard part on my end was that our students are engaged (?) in standardized testing this week. Being a dual-curriculum school, most of the general-studies part of the day has been filled with testing which didn't leave me much time to prepare the kids. I like to really prepare for things (which, yes, does involve me talking quite a bit as one of my students pointed out today). I asked the classroom teacher to have them write questions in advance.

Technical glitch:
Technical problems are par for the course. Despite the best preparation, they do happen. Unfortunately, we were unable to see the students in Virginia. It threw me off not being able to see the kids to whom we were talking, although we could hear them just fine.

What went well:
The kids were extremely excited about the call. They asked questions about field trips, pets, wild animals, the weather (the VA kids asked my kids how HOT it gets in Florida during the WINTER. My students were a bit confused by that one!), and questions about locale such as "Are you close to Washington DC?" and "How many of you have been there?" Almost all of the students from VA had been to DC.
The best part was that Paula called us back after her students left to go to art. She called from a different computer, and this time the video worked. Since our call had been short, many of my students had not had a chance to go before the camera and ask a question. Paula was very patient and answered many questions. She even took the computer into the hallway to show us her school's pets.

What I would like to do differently next time:
I would not try to do this again without having a chance to talk to and prepare the students beforehand. We will brainstorm our questions as a whole class instead of having each student write their own questions. We will also decide in advance who is going to sit in the "hot seat" and who will ask which questions. Of course, we will discuss behavior expectations as well.

Thank you so much to Paula and her students. I am really looking forward to our next skype session.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

6 Things That Make Me Happy

A lovely meme and easy, too...I was tagged by TJ Shay to share 6 things that make me happy. I find it pretty easy to feel happy. Here are six of the things that make me so.

1. Cuddling with my kids.
2. Sleeping late
3. Summer break
4. A good cup of coffee in the morning
5. A hot shower
6. Cool, but not cold, weather

I am going to tag some of my students for this meme. My fourth graders have been working on a group blog this year. The content has been sliding downhill a bit. They need some direction, and I like this meme. Please, consider yourself tagged if you'd like to share.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Act Smart

I was talking with my husband who is going through yet another "career change." I put it in quotes because, really, he has never had a career. He is an amazingly talented person who can do so many things really well, but he just hasn't found the way to make any of his avocations into a vocation.
As we were talking about how hard his new business is I shared with him some thoughts about changing his approach in order to become successful. He agreed, but he felt that it wasn't what came naturally to him.
So, I countered, just act that way.
ACT the way you want to be. Fake it til you make it. It's simple.

It made me think of an incident with a student. I had started to present an assignment for the lab and heard some moaning and groaning (I know, unbelievable!). I told them never mind, just act like you like what we're doing.
Later that night I received an email from one of the kids. She said, "I don't have to act like I like what we're doing anymore. I LOVE it. "
What a great actress. She convinced herself.

Friday, February 13, 2009

More on What Matters....How about READING?!

OH, MAGIC HOUR WHEN A CHILD FIRST KNOWS IT CAN READ PRINTED WORDS!
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

I'm a dinosaur, I admit it. I still believe that reading is and will always be a core value. No links, this is just an off-the-top-of-my-head post, but I know I've seen articles listing reasons why reading will not be an important skill in the future. All information will be accessible in non-written formats.
I don't believe it. I never will. Call it my inability to embrace change, call it what you will. I believe that reading matters BIG TIME. 
One of my defining interests as a teacher is literacy. I would love to see all kids love reading. I think every classroom in every school should give kids time to read.
 
Time. 
To Read. 

I'd like to see reading textbooks become extinct. Sheesh. There are so many good books to read to kids and for kids to read. The idea of a reading textbook? It makes no sense. ( I spent over a hundred dollars on my daughter's reading textbooks for school this year. Can you imagine if every parent spent that money, instead, to build a classroom's library or to build their child's at-home library?)
Real readers read. Real readers talk about and share books with others. Some real readers do related extension activities depending on who they are and how much they liked the book. 
 Real readers hang out in places like bookstores and libraries. Real readers enjoy stories and most enjoy hearing stories read aloud, even after they can read themselves.  Real readers get emotionally involved with characters. They think about the characters and the story beyond the time they are reading. Real readers go back and re-read things. Real readers don't need outside incentives to read. The incentive is the joy of the story. For young children, it's the warmth of cuddling with a special adult who reads aloud. 
Until children have been "hooked" on reading, what about giving them outside incentives to read? I'm ok with that. Whatever makes readers of our children is fine with me. What I don't want to see in schools are activities that make reading something inauthentic. I've seen too many children who believe that reading is something you do in school, that it has no real value in their lives. 
Building a classroom community that centers around authentic reading is actually fairly easy. To me, literacy, the whole, is more important than all the pieces and parts our schools seem to spend so much time teaching. Reading matters. 

Sunday, February 8, 2009

What Matters? Part 3: Students

How much importance do we give to what matters to our students?
I've seen and heard all kinds of responses to this question. In my experience the best teachers are interested in knowing what matters to their students. I believe that students have much to teach me and each other. I learn from my students every day. I truly value student voice and wish to explore the interests that my students bring with them into the classroom. 
However, I also feel that as an adult teaching children, it is my responsibility to guide them. The teacher has the role of guiding the class and setting up the environment. I guess I believe in student-centered learning with the teacher directing things, but in a way where the students are empowered. 
In my opinion, the younger the students are when they realize that their ideas, interests and feelings matter in their education, the better. I student taught with a truly impressive 4th/5th grade teacher. He did many little things that made a big impression on me and, I'm sure, on his students. One thing that I learned from watching him teach was the way he put greater emphasis on questions than on answers. He frequently set up situations and gave assignments where the students were required to question: question each other, question the texts, question their parents. 
Children are naturally curious (think of the three-year old's favorite sentence: Why?). But, in many cases it seems that the structure of our schooling, instead of building on this natural curiosity and directing it toward learning, stifles it. Instead of learning to ask deeper questions (although what is deeper than Why?) students are learning to stop asking questions at all.
In my current experience, I am finding that by the time they are in the upper grades, the students have become passive. They are waiting to be taught instead of actively seeking to learn. 

Exhibit A: My first year at the school, I bought the wonderful, multi-media authoring software, Media Blender. The 5th grade teacher suggested having students write multimedia science reports. I asked the students to brainstorm ideas for topics. After I read the topics: sharks, frogs, volcanoes, etc., I asked them to write down some of their questions about these topics. I got faced with a roomful of blank stares. Questions? Why would we write questions? What do you mean?
"Well," I tried, "what is it you want to know about frogs or sharks or volcanoes? What do you want to learn?" Again, blank stares. Finally, one of the students set me straight by telling me that they just chose what they thought would make a good report. 
I decided, then, to scrap the science reports and let them create multimedia projects on whatever topic was of interest to them. It could be anything at all, as long as it was appropriate for school. 
Two Things
One- I worried that this was a bad move on my part. I never "teach tech" as in just teaching how to use a software program. Was this a case of teaching tech or was it an example of letting students explore their interests?
Two- Although many of the projects were not academic in terms of content, the class was highly engaged, highly motivated, collaborating beautifully, problem solving, creating and expressing themselves in a variety of ways. Was this or was it not worthwhile? 
The projects ranged in topic from American Idol and Survivor to fashion, sharks and comets. I had more than one parent come to me to ask what we were doing, they had never seen their child so excited about a school project before. 

Since that time I have devised and used a number of student interest surveys as a way to use student voices as part of my planning. Of course, that is only one of a number of different ways that I listen to and get to know my students. Truthfully, I have been a bit disappointed with the surveys. They write things like, "We want to learn whatever you want us to learn."  This may be general immaturity or just apathy, maybe boredom or disinterest in the survey, but I tend to think it is also a failure of our school's approach in the younger grades. By the time they are in the upper grades, the students have learned to think of learning as a carrying out of the teacher's plan. To me, this is something we should be looking at school wide, as teachers and as parents. Do we want to ignite a spark or put out the flame entirely?

On a somewhat related, but somewhat unrelated note, I thought I would share a video my first grade students made about what matters to them. We submitted it to the website 1000thingsthatmatter.com (it's number 426). I love the simple truth of what is important in their lives: family, friends, pets and maybe money. I want my students to learn that what they think and feel is important, whatever their ages. Their voices matter to me.


I'm Sharing :)

Since one of my New Year's resolutions was to share more, I am going to push myself out of my comfort zone and post my ADE application video here. Why is this a big deal? 
I am pretty sensitive and maybe a little bit shy. I haven't told anyone except my husband (and you people) that I even applied to ADE. It was a big stretch when I shared  it in another post.

It makes me feel vulnerable. If I don't tell anyone, then I don't have to tell anyone if I don't make the cut. I am working on changing that way of looking at things. Instead of feeling vulnerable and exposed, which comes from a feeling of self-doubt, and, if I'm not accepted, to take it hard, as a personal and professional failure, I would like to get to the point where I embrace everything as an opportunity to learn and grow and to possibly help someone else in some way.
Okay, therapy session over. Here's my video.

 

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Twitter Fable


Actually, it's a true tale, not a fable. You can decide for yourself the moral of the story. 
I am fairly liberal with my follow-backs on twitter. If the person is any type of educator or seems (based on their tweets and other stats) fairly interesting, not trying to sell me something(a big one) nor on a quest to follow thousands nor playing some sort of follow-and-seek game, I usually follow back. 
Anyhow, I got followed a while back by a guy whose name I'm not going to use in this story. I'm not sure why I decided not to reciprocate the follow, but I didn't. I couldn't tell much about him from his profile or picture. Definitely had a sense of humor, not following many people at all. Wondered why he followed me. Maybe a fluke?
I noticed, though, that he was quick to @me in response to any of my computer question tweets. Recognizing his worth in my network, I quickly corrected my earlier non-follow-back. I still had no idea what value I brought to him, nor why he chose to follow me. It was pretty obvious that he wasn't a teacher, and, aside from being a family-man with a sense of humor who was quick to help me with computer-related questions, I didn't know much about him. 
Recently, I tweeted asking for help with a server problem. He dm'ed (direct messaged) me and told me he could help me but easier to ichat than to dm back and forth in twitter
As we started chatting he made the disclaimer that although he worked for Apple, he wasn't helping me as an employee of Apple. 
Fine by me!
Not only was I able, after our brief chat, to fix the specific issue, but I gained a better overall understanding of the server. I have been in-over-my-head with the server for years. Reading through the big, fat training manuals has not helped me understand one thing. 
Later, out of curiosity, I googled him. He is a senior engineer for Apple. 

I still have no idea why he follows me! 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Critical Mass

Have we reached a stage of critical mass in EdTech?
Has the hundredth monkey caught on to new ways of learning, teaching, schooling?
I believe the answer is undoubtedly "yes." 

I mean, it is 2009. Ed Tech is kind of old news. 

Some personal anecdotes:
1. FETC.  Swarming with people. The exhibit floor packed with the newest, cool thing. And it is only one conference of many happening all over the world, all the time. 

2. One of the teachers at my school told me that she thought about getting a Master's degree in educational technology and doing a job like mine, but why would she? She said that young teachers entering the profession have no need for someone to help them integrate technology in the classroom. They have always used computers and naturally integrate it in their classrooms. 

3. I applied to ADE. In my own mind, I keep current with what is going on in Ed Tech and education in general and have, for years, been passionate about teaching (which was why I got into the tech stuff in the first place.) I spent a lot of last night viewing the application videos of my competitors and was pretty blown away by some of them. It made me feel two different things: first, it made me go "wow." There are some hugely impressive people out there. When I see what other people are doing and the quality of some of the videos, I feel like I am lagging behind. On the flip side of that thought, I feel like, well, if I'm behind, then the big picture as far as EdTech must be pretty solid. 

And then I look around my school. Papers, desks in rows facing forward to look at the teacher, who is almost always an adult, text books (that cost a fortune. I know, remember I'm a parent at the (private) school, too. We buy all our books.) Oh, to think what technology we could afford if we pooled our textbook money! 
I know, I know, it's not about the tech. But, at the same time, it is about the tech! It's not just the stuff, the gadgets and tools, the coolest flashy fun thing, but, at the same time, it is. How do I explain? I think it's about an attitude. An attitude about teaching, an attitude about learning, an attitude about kids. It's about letting go and trying something new, letting the students have some control. What I tried to convey in my ADE video was that it was a certain attitude about learning and motivation that drove me into the EdTech world in the first place. I always had the passion as an educator. It was only natural that I would get into technology. Because I look to the students to teach me about how to teach them. 
Which brings me back to my little anecdotes. I have to admit I was bothered by the young teacher telling me that my job is unnecessary. Not just because she was calling me old & in the way, but it is the attitude that disturbs me. This attitude, from a teacher," I can't learn from you" really bothers me. She's not the only teacher at my school who has insinuated this to me in one way or another. I find it hard to understand how a teacher could have that closed-minded attitude about learning

My questions-
Is the job of ed tech coordinator becoming obsolete and, if so, how soon? Is that a good thing, indicative of arriving, as opposed to striving? Is the Ed Tech teacher who alleviates the need for an Ed Tech teacher, a sign of a job well done?
I don't think that my school has arrived. We've grown, but it's slow going. I feel stuck, and I don't think it's all my fault. And I'm not sure what to do about it. 

Because technology in education is not the end, it's not THE GOAL. The goal is authentic, student-centered... I can't even finish this sentence because it's all starting to sound like buzzwords to me.  
I've been there for the journey. I've seen education before tech, during tech and now, where tech has reached critical mass. 
There were great teachers doing great things before a computer ever entered a classroom. And having all the latest, greatest gadgets will not change the fundamental values of the teacher. 
How do we get there? How do we let students lead us into the future? How do we put aside our egos and let ourselves learn from anyone? Isn't that the path?

Monday, February 2, 2009

What Matters? Part 2: Discussion

Instead of trying to sort through my own answers to the bottomless question of what really matters in education, I decided to create a Voicethread. Please don't be intimidated by the broad scope of the question. Leave more than one comment if you like. I am just excited to hear your thoughts on the subject. Thank you!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

What Matters? Part 1: Reflection

Synchronicity? 
Background info: I write blog posts in my mind all the time. I'm a much better thinker-writer than a real, sit down and type on the keys writer. One of my recent "mind posts" has been about what really matters in education. Typical of these free-flowing thought-posts (they are QUITE brilliant by the way), the ideas follow a winding path with many tangents and dead-ends. 
Funny that as I was reading some blogs tonight, also a long and winding road what with all the hyperlinks to click, I stumbled upon David Warlick's recent posts "Should it Matter?" and "More on What Matters," reflections of his after Educon2.1

I also recently read Clay Burell's spot-on post on change.org, "Reading Despite Teaching or How the Hulk led me to Hamlet."  Reading is high on my list of what matters, and Clay has a way of sharing his stories that helps you see clearly the silliness of schooliness.                                                   
Both of these pieces intersected in many places with the thoughts I've been thinking. 
I  feel compelled to add a disclaimer here lest you imagine that I am comparing myself as a writer or thinker to the likes of Warlick or Burell. No, I'm most certainly not. 

But isn't that the beauty of asking what matters? Isn't what matters to me, an ordinary teacher, as important as what matters to those who have risen to the ranks of leaders in education? Isn't that the very essence of web2.0? 
I start with my thoughts about education, based largely on my own experience. I explore my thoughts as I attempt to write a coherent post. As I try to communicate, I find myself in a different place. I never know, when I start writing, where the path will lead. Others can read and respond, draw me out, question me, challenge me, help me along.... I can read the blogs of others, too. It's a different type of experience than reading a book. It's immediate, accessible. I can leave a comment!
These early-stage thoughts that I refer to as my mind-blog-post can be compared to a spring that is hidden underground. As the spring bubbles to the surface, it meets with greater bodies of water, at which point it becomes visible, yet changed as it merges with the river. 
That, to me, is the learning process that I find taking place through this process of writing, reading and interacting through blogs and other networks. 

Now I'm nowhere near where I thought I'd be when I started this post. What do I do? Do I leave it here and write part 2 later? Do I keep going, trying to get back to what I thought I wanted to say about what matters? 
I think I'll opt for Part 2. In the meantime, I want to ask you to think about what matters. What really, truly matters about learning, going to school, educating kids, even being human? There are, of course, no right or wrong answers- just the conversation.
 

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Where to share?

I have a lot of student work that I'd like to share. 
Of course, I want to share it with parents. 
I'd also like to share with interested people in the education community. I know that for me, one of the best ways the Internet has completely made teaching easier and more enjoyable is by giving me access to what other teachers and students are doing. When I see student work that I like, I am quick to think of ways to adapt it to my students and my school. 
While I want to share, I also really want and need to be efficient. Share smarter not harder.
I'm here to tell you that I have tried several strategies already including blogs, nings, wikis, a password-protected site called edline for which our school pays a yearly subscription fee...
I'm starting to feel like an online litterbug of sorts, putting my things all over and not keeping them neat and organized. That is one issue for me, being organized and having things make sense in terms of navigation and layout, as well as being visually appealing. The other issue I face is that no matter where I share their children's work, very few parents take the time to go look at it. I think that this is because technology is not yet fully integrated at our school; it is seen as an "extra." That is a topic for another post, though.

I decided to ask my PLN on twitter what they do.

Here is what they said:


It looks like everyone is finding different things that work for them. 
Here are some examples I like. 
Langwitches    I like how organized this site is. Everything in one place and easy on the eyes. Silvia has multiple blogs and places she shares, but they are all linked here to the main site. You could probably spend days reading this amazing blog and following links, and get yourself a thorough education in technology integration at the elementary level. 
Cliotech's wiki This wiki impresses me with the way it is organized. It also seems to be a really complete site with so much in one place.
A table of contents Here's an idea. Put all your stuff all over the place, but then catalogue it with links in a "Where's all your stuff?" place. 
Vicky's wiki Another excellent example. She really uses the wiki and linked blog to communicate to students and parents as well as to show what they're doing. It makes sense and is all in one place and easy to navigate. This is the idea I was trying to emulate when I started my school wiki this year.
All of these examples represent an amazing amount of work!

I have this blog, which I really want to keep as a professional space. Obviously it is public and any parents can easily find it, but its purpose is not to communicate to parents. I also started a blog (which I will not link to because I haven't kept up with it)to share lesson plans and projects with students/parents, as well as a wiki in progress(with the same intended audience- students and parents). I also post work on edline and share samples on various nings. I suppose it is part of my desire to focus that I want to have all of my work in one place or at least all linked to one place. Or maybe I should just let go and post things all over the web and let google take care of it for me.
Where do you share?

Monday, January 26, 2009

FETC Session: Digital Portfolios

Digital Portfolios
Kati Searcy

One of the concurrent sessions I attended at FETC was a session on Digital Portfolios. I'm not sure of the need to actually blog notes from the session, as any good presenter shares his or her session online. But, since I sometimes enjoy taking notes, I figured I'd share them here. Here are Kati's presentation slides as well as samples and additional resources on digital portfolios. 

Traditional Assessment:
•Recall or Recognize
•Meets need of teacher
•Multiple choice, fill in the blank, true/false, matching (forced choice)
•Summative, not formative
•Teacher-structured
•Indirect Evidence
People in room asked to discuss what %age of assessments at their school are traditional assessments, answer is 60-80% or more. 
Authentic Assessment
•Measures ability using real-world challenges
•Students construct own responses rather than select
•Students choose task/student-structured
•Direct evidence
Selecting your portfolio medium: 
•paper-based vs. digital/online
lots of reasons given why it is better to move away from paper-based portfolios and move toward digital portfolios:
-minimal storage
-easy to create/back-up
-can be reproduced, shared
-interactive
-long shelf life
-increases tech skills in a meaningful way

Disadvantages of digital
-access to equipment
tech skills with younger students
can be difficult for one teacher to orchestrate esp. w/younger students (process not usually as much an issue as tech troubleshooting)

Ultimately, we want the best of both, traditional and authentic. 

What is a portfolio?
A collection of student work over a period of time
purposefully selected by student
demonstrates how and what student has learned and how they feel about it
conveys a students abilities, experiences, achievements, etc.
A portfolio is a creative means of -
organizing 
summarizing
sharing artifacts
sharing information
sharing ideas about learning
reflecting
evaluating
setting goals

What can be in a digital portfolio? 
EVERYTHING!
-scanned handwritten work
-Photo documentation of activities, field trips
-games/products students have created
-written reflections
-document science experiments (video, photos, etc) [here she showed an example of a science experiment her students did with potatoes, they took pictures and made a video w/animoto showing all the pictures of the experiement--very cute!]

wiki- set up teacher account, give student access 
Advantages of web-based:
-read-world audience
-motivating
-continue documenting learning outside of school

Disadvantages of Web-based portfolios:
-maintaining student anonymity
-if you have inconsistent access to Internet at your school
she recommends Inspired Classroom (said to google it - I did, but couldn't figure out which of my google results had to do with web portfolios?)
My note: I don't see these as disadvantages. I am lucky to have consistent Internet access at school, and I think this is yet another way to teach students 21st century skills, how to represent themselves safely and appropriately online.

Types of portfolios:
Working portfolio - work in progress
Showcase portfolio -students favorite pieces
Evaluation portfolio -used to document progress, used for grading

Reflection Requires:
Instruction and modeling, 
feedback
practice

Questions--
What are the strengths of this work?
What are the weaknesses of this work?
What did you learn from this?
What could have made this better?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Getting (and Staying) Focused

It's a little late for New Year's Resolutions, but hey, better late than never! It's a new day!
This past Thursday/Friday I attended FETC. One of my tweets from the conference:
It's not just twitter either. I am in a very different place than I was a year ago. 
Last year when I attended FETC, I had just started this blog. I didn't know from a PLN. I was an island at my school, swimming against the tide, looking for ideas, figuring stuff out-- mostly by myself.  I was at a critical point where things were about to really change, but I was unaware of it.
In one year the changes have been phenomenal. Last year at FETC I had just started reading blogs. I had bookmarked a few and jumped around reading here and there. I had no idea about using an aggregator to read blogs. Now I subscribe to around 70 blogs in my google reader. I have a twitter network of around 400 educators. I have joined some 20 nings that have to do with education. I have connected with, collaborated with and been influenced by colleagues all over the planet. I've been inspired. I've pushed myself and my students in new directions as I've learned from others.

Now, one year later, I'm suffering from overload. Like a kid in a candy store I stuffed myself too full of all the goodies. It's time to go on a diet. I have become frenzied, my energy scattered. In order for my tree to grow and stay strong, I must prune back the branches. It is time to focus. 

I am a believer in the merits of  backwards planning, so I will start with my goals. What is it I really want to achieve?

1. I want to be the best teacher I can be. Ultimately, I want what I do to help me where it matters - in the classroom with my students.

2. I want to do justice to my job as an edtech leader at my school. I would like to develop my leadership skills so that I may help facilitate change.

3. I would like to be a better writer and make a difference, through blogging and other forms of sharing, for other teachers.

4. I want to continue learning, growing and being challenged in my career and my life.

What do I need to do in order to make these goals reality? What is my plan of action?
•Rededicate myself to blogging. I started by giving EdTech Workshop a new look. If you read in a reader, stop by the blog to see the new look. I need to become more succinct, too, and spend less time fussing over each post. There is something to be said for just getting the words out there. Which brings me to my next item.
•In the words of Miguel Guhlin, "Share more." This is hard for me and something I must push myself to improve.  I compare myself constantly -my writing, my students' work, the soundness of my ideas to those around me, and it holds me back. The process of sharing is part of the process of learning and improving. I need to trust that there is a place for me in this edublogopshere universe. Which brings me to my next item.
•Keep my ego in check. I've gotten a taste this year of the egos in the education world. It has been one of the less pleasant parts of my involvement in the blogosphere, but I have as much to learn from it as from anything else. I need to continually remind myself that it's never really about me.
•Let some things go. I am going to cut down my google reader. I know I don't have to read everything in it (and I don't). But seeing all those unread posts, it's overwhelming and sometimes guilt-inducing. It reminds me of all the things I'm not doing. If it's important, and it's going to benefit me in a useful way, I need to trust that it will find me. Between all the links on twitter and others' blogs, plus the shared items in my reader, I have plenty to keep me busy. 
Less IS more.
Along the same lines, I am going to let go of all the nings. I will keep the Elementary Tech Teachers ning, which has proven to be very useful for me, and I will make an effort to be more of a contributor there. I also recently joined a Tech4Learning ning, and I would like to actively engage there as well. 
I'm also letting go of the print magazines I receive, with the exception of The Creative Educator. Not only is it my favorite, but, like the new me, it is focused. It is in-line with my goals and does not cause me to scatter my energies wishing for equipment and software that my school doesn't have. (Note: The Creative Educator is available online, but I prefer to receive and read a printed copy).
I'm keeping twitter!!!!!!!! I love twitter. I don't know if I should get rid of my plurk account or just continue to not use it but keep the name edtechworkshop for myself to avoid possible confusion if someone else takes it. I have no interest right now in updating myself all over the place using ping, although I know some people swear by that. I just really like twitter. I will continue to grow my network there and follow new teachers.

That's my plan. I'll let you know how it goes. 

image credit: Keeney, Carolyn. candystore.jpg. October 25, 2003. Pics4Learning. 25 Jan 2009